“The world needs new leadership, but the new leadership is about working together.”
This past weekend was the last day of camp. I sat in the front row like a proud mother listening to 175 children that were not truly my own, talking about love and kindness and acceptance. Never have I been more proud. The lessons these 6th, 7th and 8th graders taught every parent in the room about their experience at camp were awe-inspiring. If ever this message was needed…it is now.
I am privileged to serve over 3,000 students a year, as the Executive Director of a non-profit leadership organization, which also runs a summer program. We have two full-time employees and hundreds of high school and college students volunteering that serve as camp counselors and mentors. Students teaching students, to listen to one another, to respect and learn from different opinions and how to work together towards resolution. Ultimately teaching them how to lead.
Every night as I watch the news and see the continuing political discord rearing its ugly head, I can’t help believe that our children will be better than we were, they will learn, listen, come together to lead us all. These children are our hope…just as one of our students said, “It is an eyeopener to learn that you can do something to change the world…”
I am not a stalker, but lets face it…we all like to follow certain people, whether on Instagram or in the media, it could be a top chef, an author, or a celebrity. What these individuals all have in common is that they intrigue us, they seem to be living their purpose. They know who they are and seem to know where they are going.
That person for me isn’t Victoria Beckham or Oprah, while I’m sure they are lovely, the person who I have loved to follow is young man I met in Watts at Verbum Dei High School five years ago and his name is Caylin Moore. He is the one I am following.
As a young man he was a student athlete, a stand up young man with a deep faith. I have followed him via the media, when he headed to Marquette on a full scholarship. I watched when he became a Fulbright Scholar, and then when he landed in my literal path at TCU in February, I was stunned.
I followed Caylin as he created SPARK at TCU to inspire young underserved youth to follow their dreams and to become whatever they dream of. I sat in front of him as he said he had to give back to those that helped him along the way.
Now, I will watch from a far, as he graduates from TCU and heads off to Oxford, England to become TCU’s second Rhodes Scholar. We all need heroes, people to look up to and to inspire us to be our best…Caylin Moore is mine….and one to watch!
This upcoming weekend we will celebrate our moms for Mother’s Day. Last week, I had an incredible conversation with two inspiring mothers, who have taken their journey into motherhood and transformed the lives of hundreds of young mothers in the foster care system. These amazing women founded Alliance of Moms, a non-profit organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.
Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser were both pregnant in 2012, along with three other girlfriends (Danika Charity, Emily Lynch and Kelly Zajfen) all at the same time. For some it was their first child, for others their second or third but the girlfriends all experienced a profound change in becoming mothers. Together they were determined to use that shift in each of them to help other mothers, the most at risk, those in the foster care system.
Yasmine:I was pregnant with my son, having a child makes your heart burst wide open and makes you see everything every differently.I wanted a part of motherhood to be looking out for all children, not just our own. From my previous work withThe Alliance for Children’s Rights,I knew we needed to explore more volunteer opportunities for children’s rights.
Jules: My mother grew up in foster care and was a teen parent at 17. I understood the need to break the cycle, 66% of babies born into foster care become teen moms. I also understood that my child had won a lottery that he didn’t even knew he entered, just by luck. We needed to help support all mothers.
Tell us about when you knew, your work had made a difference?
Yasmine: In July 2014, five of us began exploring this idea of creating an auxiliary group to support The Alliance for Children’s Rights but more than that we wanted a mother to mother, community to community event. Six weeks later, we had our first program, Raising Baby, inviting 70 youth in foster care and their children for a day of fun, educational parenting workshops. We were determined to be there for these moms, when so many have let them down.
While we set out to serve these young women in foster care, our members were also impacted by serving. The women we serve have changed all of our lives for the better because regardless of your circumstances, we all walk away stronger knowing that we all struggle as mothers.
What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Jules: Having a hands on relationship with our pregnant girls and seeing them on an upward trajectory. Knowing that these young mothers are now talking and singing to their unborn children, or reading to their children at bedtime, creating family rituals, and using the little things that we teach them, which have a big impact on their children.
These young parents are motivated to change their lives and their children’s’ and more than that, it is seeing people being kind.
Yasmine: My dream would be to create something sustainable and scalable that we could take outside of Los Angeles and to other communities of mothers across the country. We know and see the value of creating community and a village for mothers.
Jules: My dream would also be to see our program expand to other places and perhaps to help all teen moms. The real dream would be to have the public start seeing these young moms in a different way…with humanity and empathy.
As Yasmine and Jules both said, “We are all different and yet we are all the same. We all want the best for our children, we all get overwhelmed, stressed, worried that we are not doing the right thing. We are all learning about ourselves and our children as we struggle to do our best.”
Over 600 members, hundreds of families and young mothers served and countless lives forever changed by a group of mothers who know what it is to share the love, create an alliance and to inspire us all.
As many of you know I run a non-profit youth leadership organization as my day job. One of the things I love the most about my job is having the privileged position to inspire thousands of middle school students each year by teaching them how to serve others. In order to do that effectively, we look for non-profit partnerships with amazing causes. This year we partnered with a remarkable organization called Cell Phones for Soldiers, that was started by two kids, brother and sister, Rob and Brittany Berquist in 2004.
These two heard about a soldier with an $8,000 cell phone bill and decided that just wasn’t right. What these two siblings did next was even more surprising and the most inspiring story to inspire thousands of today’s kids.
Rob, who is now 27 ,and still runs Cell Phones for Soldiers has continued his mission to ensure that no military service person should ever have to pay to call home. Today, his sister Brittany works in marketing for the Kind Company. To date Cell Phones for Soldiers has donated over 300 million minutes in free talk time, recycled more than 15 million cell phones and still mails about 1,500 calling cards to service men and women around the globe per week.
This past January, Robbie and Brittany were honored by Forbes Magazine in their 30 under 30 issue for their incredible, vision, service and mission. What began simply because a brother and a sister saw an injustice and wanted to right a wrong, turned into something, so very right.
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
I am constantly inspired of how goodness creates more goodness.
The past eight weeks I have been in the privileged position of working with thousands of middle school students to teach them about service. This year our organization talked to our students about an amazing non-profit called Cell Phone for Soldiers, that was started by two teenagers in 2004……you all will hear their story on Wednesday.
What was magical, was sharing a real life story about two kids who made a difference and how quickly, their story inspired thousands to do the same. Goodness does create goodness and thousands of candles can be lit from a single flame.
A few years ago, my husband and I went to Wisconsin, where he competed to become a nationally ranked triathlete. We were sitting at an outdoor restaurant over looking a river, when I struck up a conversation with an older (in years only) gentleman, whose name was Don Ardell. He was competing in the 70+ age group, where he is and continuous to be, the number one ranked triathlete and national champion in three sports, at the age of 79. He is a remarkable man and over the years we have become pen pals of sorts.
So, last week when I received this note from him in reference to previous week’s Gandhi quote, I had to share it with you…..It was so beautiful, I began to cry.
Here is the note from Don below….
Reading the Gandhi quote (Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men) led to my reflection on one of Ingersoll’s speeches that I think is a partial blueprint for the embrace of the common decencies, namely his “Improved Man” address, delivered in New York on February 23, 1890. Here are the concluding words of this lovely talk:
The Improved Man will not give his life to the accumulation of wealth. He will find no happiness in exciting the envy of his neighbors. He will not care to live in a palace while others who are good, industrious and kind are compelled to huddle in huts and dens. He will know that a great wealth is a great burden, and that to accumulate beyond the actual needs of a reasonable human being is to increase not wealth, but responsibility and trouble.
The Improved Man will find his greatest joy in the happiness of others and he will know that the home is the real temple. He will believe in the democracy of the fireside, and will reap his greatest reward in being loved by those whose lives he has enriched.
The Improved Man will be self-poised, independent, candid and free. He will be a scientist. He will observe, investigate, experiment and demonstrate. He will use his sense and his senses. He will keep his mind open as the day to the hints and suggestions of nature. He will always be a student, a learner, and a listener–a believer in intellectual hospitality. In the world of his brain there will be a continuous summer, perpetual sees-time and harvest. Facts will be the foundation of his faith. In one hand he will carry the torch of truth and with the other raise the fallen.
As we hit mid- week, I share Don’s words, wisdom and gift with you. A man who inspires others to be their best, to live a healthy lifestyle and shows us all by example what a life well lived is truly all about….most assuredly, an Improved Man.
I often find myself mindlessly scrolling Facebook, when I’m standing in line, bored or looking for some type of meaningful distraction. The key word being meaningful. So as I sat down to write and came across this video from the other say, I knew my writing direction had taken a swift turn.
The story is about a young Muslim man, named Ibn Ali Miller, who came upon two young men who were beginning a fight. A crowd was gathered to watch the neighborhood street fight, when Ibn interrupted to talk to the two young adversaries. He calmed them both and drew the crowd’s attention, who naturally, filmed the entire thing.
It was not the words he spoke to the boys that touched my heart but rather the words he shared with the press, about growing up in poverty, his mother, staying on the right path and the best way to use his 15 minutes of fame.
Every week I bring inspiring people to your attention. This amazing soul reminds us all that charity starts at home, in our neighborhoods and most importantly inside our hearts.
If you have been a long time reader of Charity Matters, you know I have certain causes, as we all do, that are near and dear to my heart. As a result, I love to re-visit these from time to time. In 2014, I wrote a post on a most remarkable young man from Verbum Dei High School in Watts (a favorite cause of mine for sure) and his name was Caylin Moore.
Last week, while I was at TCU, this inspiring young man and I had a few minutes to connect and hear about his incredible life in the service of others. Caylin grew up in Compton, with a strong single mother, two siblings and a deep faith. He attended Verbum Dei High School, where he was a scholar student and star athlete. After high school graduation he headed to Marist College on a full scholarship to play football. He became a Fulbright Scholar and then transferred to TCU and walked onto the football team.
I came across a Charity Matters post from 2014, which opens with Caylin being asked where he sees himself in five years. His answer was insightful, as were his feelings about college. He said, “You go to college to change the world.”
Today, Caylin is still studying hard, working on a book, running his campus organization called SPARK (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids) where he and fellow athletes are inspiring the underserved youth of Fort Worth to be their very best and to dream big. Caylin is also getting ready to head to Oxford, England as a Rhodes Scholar.
I can’t wait to circle back in a few more years and see how this remarkable man continues to inspire so many in his faith and service to others. A force in forward motion and compassion.
Late February and early March may be a gloomy time of the year in most parts of the country, but if there is one thing that brightens all of our lives it is the beginning of Girl Scout cookie season. Half of the year I suffer from a mild depression when my freezer no longer contains thin mints and don’t get me started on how much I love tagalongs. This year, there is something really special about all of this, its the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scout cookie and their sales. Who knew a cookie could make such a difference in all of our lives?
The other day with my cookie order on my mind, I had a great conversation with a friend, who told me I needed to meet one of his dear friends, an amazing woman named Frances Hesselbein. My friend, author Mike Stallard, began describing this incredible woman who transformed the Girl Scouts and so many more lives. I knew I needed to know more about this amazing woman and how she has used her life to inspire so many others…
Frances, the mother of one son, went from Girl Scout troop leader to CEO of the Girl Scouts and was accredited with turning the organization around. She grew the organization to over 2,25 million girls and had a volunteer workforce of 780,000 during her time. In 1998 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work with the Girl Scouts.
In November, 2011 she told Forbes Magazine, “When I left the Girl Scouts in 1990, it was the largest organization for girls and women in the world. Six weeks later I found myself CEO of the Drucker Foundation, with no money, no staff and just a powerful vision. Peter encouraged us to focus on the type of change that will determine whether or not we are, all of us, a part of the future.”
Today the Girl Scouts is the world’s most successful organization dedicated to creating girl leaders with 3.2 million active members and over 59 million alumni! Truly nothing sweeter than using your life to make others better. Frances will be 102 in November.
As February comes to a close I wanted to make sure that the last post of the month was about the heart. As many of you know I became friends with a wonderful family, the Pages thorough my work at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. They are an inspirational family and despite the adversity they have faced in light of their son’s congenital heart disease, they always find a way to turn a negative into something positive for someone else.
Some of you may remember Max, as young Darth Vadar in the infamous Volkswagen commercial a few years back. I received an email from Jennifer the other day about a new campaign Max is helping shine some light on, called Mended Little Hearts.
This inspiring organization began in 2004, when four heart patients came together in Boston to discuss their heart surgery experiences. Out of that meeting came the recognition to support these families of children born with heart defects and heart disease.
Today, Mended Little Hearts has over 10,000 members and over 80 Chapters in the U.S. and Mexico. Proof that one heart can heal so many others.
Since this week’s theme is teamwork, it seemed like the perfect time to share one of the most fun team building activities to hit the philanthropic world in a long time…The Do Good Bus. Last spring, I was at an event for Project Giving Kids and was introduced to this amazing woman named Rebecca Pontius . When I found out what she does, I knew I had to share with each of you…because it is just the coolest most fun thing EVER!
Rebecca is the founder of the non-profit, The Do Good Bus. The Do Good Bus idea came together when Rebecca and her brother were on a party bus for a 30th birthday party. They had friends from everywhere, who didn’t know one another and she and her brother surprised all the guests with the destination of the party last-minute. The party was such a success that Rebecca and her brother had an idea that they could use this same format to connect volunteers and non-profits, making volunteering fun. Their mission was to give people an opportunity to get involved, do good together and learn more about their community.
Here is how it works:
Today, almost six years later, the Do Good Bus has taken over 180 rides with almost 5,000 do gooders to over 109 causes. I asked Rebecca, if she knew when she had made a difference, and her answer was, “Every time you get on the bus and see strangers connecting, rolling up their sleeves to volunteer and do something great for a non-profit in need and then share stories together like old friends..that’s when I know we have made a difference.”
As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
For all of you that have followed Charity Matters over the past few years, most of you know that I truly enjoy being the storyteller. I am Irish after all, so I guess it comes naturally? However, when the Good News Only site called Hooplaha.com approached me about doing a story on Charity Matters….well, the tables were turned.
The Hooplaha team and I share a common belief that people are innately good and more than that, good news and stories about good people doing great work need to be shared. So with that in mind, if this so inspires you, please feel free to share. The world needs more kindness and goodness, so thanks for spreading some and check out Hooplaha if you need a little happy news to brighten your day.
We have all heard the expression that, “Charity begins at home,” a phrase that I wholeheartedly agree with. However, when people approach me about how to “teach” philanthropy and giving to their children…my response is that giving isn’t necessarily something you “teach” but rather a value that you adopt and model as a family.
In thinking about the best way to show your children how to care for others and to foster their love of helping others, reflect upon your own values and your families. If that is a goal for your family, then start by creating a culture of kindness and generosity where giving becomes something natural that your family does together.
Some other tips on raising charitable children…..
1. Start young, the earlier the better. For little ones (4 or 5), keep it simple, perhaps canned food for a local shelter or blankets for the homeless. Something that they understand.
2. Be age appropriate. Don’t overwhelm young children with world hunger but rather something relatable to them, perhaps something local in your community.
3. Engage your children in the process, especially the older they get. Find out what they care about? Perhaps they love animals and want to support a local shelter? Have them use their passion to make a difference. I have one son who struggled to learn to read, today he reads to children who struggle with the same thing he did.
4. Research together and suggests a few choices. With 1.9 million non-profits it can be overwhelming for all of us. Our family usually picks 3 or 4 ideas and then we vote on a holiday philanthropy project. We have adopted soldiers, fed homeless, adopted inner city families for Christmas. Ultimately it is the kids vote that decides.
5. Be intentional with your own giving. Teach by example. Discuss what causes you care about. Let your children hear and see your volunteer efforts or participate in them if possible.
6. Make giving habitual by being consistent. Whether its part of your allowance structure, a holiday tradition or something you do at birthdays, be consistent and establish giving as a tradition and habit. It’s no different from any sport, the more you participate the easier and more fun it becomes. Ultimately it becomes a part of who they are.
7. Emphasize the joy and the experience of giving rather than money. Philanthropy is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. Giving is so much more fun than receiving. Make it a joyful experience for your family and something you share in together. Perhaps, start with entering a 5k walk or charity run or volunteering together.
The benefits of philanthropic children: These from Julie Nesbit of Whittier Trust
Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
Develops empathetic thinking
Fosters an appreciation for what they have
Correlates to improved performance in school
Like everything we do with raising our children, it takes time , patience, consistency and love. Chances are you already do most of these things and don’t even realize it and your children do too. This holiday season, enjoy the process of giving in whatever way you decide to participate. You and your children will experience the real joy of the holidays….together.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, a successful black friday, are enjoying your cyber monday and are now ready for the most important day of all…tomorrow’s #GivingTuesday. What is #GivingTuesday, you ask? It is a movement that began in 2012 to celebrate and support giving and philanthropy.
More than that, #GivingTuesday has become a global movement that last year united over 70 countries around the world by sharing our human capacity to care for and empower one another. And today more than ever we need to be doing a little bit more of that…
What I think is even more fantastic, is the volunteering efforts that go along with the day. If you are not sure where to start then merely go to the #GivingTuesday link here and you will find a list of local volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Last year alone over 700,000 people volunteered for clothing drives, tutoring projects and a wide range of activities aimed at helping local non-profits across the country. Almost 40,000 charities, corporate and civic partners registered to officially be a part of Giving Tuesday this year.
Sheila Herring from the Case Foundation was quoted as saying,”The biggest thing for us is that Giving Tuesday directly challenges Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where you have analysts lining up to look at the numbers as a gauge of the health of our economy. What if, as a nation, we focused that kind of attention on giving and we wanted that to be our identity?”
What if? Our world would be a better place. And it already is because what started as an idea, just five years ago, raised over $116,000,000 last year for charities and causes around the world. When we come together in unity, we can make beautiful things happen. I can’t wait to hear what you are doing tomorrow on #GivingTuesday.